Calvary’s first-ever trip to the Mercedes-Benz Superdome this week is more than just a chance for the program’s first state football title.
The Cavaliers want to make a statement for the whole school.
“The bottom line is we’re not going anywhere,” said head coach John Bachman about rumors that the school could potentially be closing. “I know the first thing I hear when I get to the Dome is, ‘Are y’all closing in January?’ I’ve answered that question 100,000 times and I know if I have, the kids have.
“We’re open. The staff will continue to coach and mentor young kids. No matter what you heard or who you heard it from, call me, call (superintendent Ken Kruithof), call (principal Rhonda Honea), call (pastor Rick Edmonds). Calvary is alive and well, and we’re gonna be here for a long time.”
The football team can be a flagbearer for the school, and the No. 2 Cavs (8-4) can plant that flag in New Orleans on Thursday at 12:30 p.m. when they face No. 4 Archbishop Hannan (11-2).
A title could also increase Calvary’s footprint at home in Shreveport, where the Cavaliers have competed with Evangel locally and teams like John Curtis and University Lab statewide for championship spotlight.
Evangel and Calvary decided to part ways before this season as the Eagles moved up to Class 3A and the Cavaliers remained a Class 2A member.
“We can establish our identity with a Calvary state championship,” Bachman said. “Evangel and us didn’t go against each other – it’s not that we’re afraid to, it just didn’t work out (this season).
“I’m hearing all kinds of changes are coming with (the select-nonselect split, which will be voted on in January), but I’m not sure other than a regular season game that we’ll ever be together again. That’s just due to population and choices.”
Not including their annual district game until this season, the Cavaliers bumped into Evangel twice in the playoffs, losing in the 2009 second round and the 2007 quarters.
Bachman had a hand in establishing Evangel’s program, serving as an assistant for 10 seasons before leading the program for three seasons (2007-09) including winning the 2009 state title.
Calvary made its first championship game after edging Catholic-New Iberia in the semifinals two weeks ago, the fourth semifinals game since the program became playoff eligible in 2006.
The current senior class was sophomores in Calvary’s last semifinals trip in 2011, a loss to Winnfield.
Defensive tackle Randy Woodle has been an anchor on the defensive line this season, saying that an increased sense of brotherhood among players played a role.
“(Winning a championship) would mean the world to me because they are like my brothers,” Woodle said. “They’re like my family, and I spend more time with then than I do anybody else.
“To be able to win it with them, it would probably be the most special thing that’s ever happened to the school and me in my personal life because of how close I am to each one of these guys.”
The Cavs were not only fighting closure rumors and the fact they’ve never advanced to a state championship game, but a 1-4 start to the season could have spelled disaster, especially with a dip in the number of football players and enrollment.
Calvary’s official enrollment is 811 kids (K-12) as of Oct. 1, according to state figures, which is a 23 percent drop from 2011.
Combine that with the 1-4 start – which included powerhouses like Byrd, Parkway, West Monroe and St. Thomas More – and some might have wondered about the football program’s viability.
“After the first five weeks, we had a lot to prove for this program,” said sophomore quarterback Shea Patterson, who in turn proved himself by assuming the full-time starting quarterback role by Week 4 and throwing for nearly 2,400 yards and 31 touchdowns this season.
Bachman said his bunch had to decide to fight through this season’s difficulties.
“It’s been a difficult year – we’ve lost a lot of kids, lost some population,” Bachman said. “Several new private schools are opening up that are taking kids from the elementary level on up to high school.
“But they decided that they’ll hang in there and fight, so it’s very gratifying right now. We have finally walked through that door. But I’ve got a group that understands that walking through that door is nice, but finishing that door is a whole ‘nother story. They’ve got their jaw set and ready to go.”